Saturday, May 15, 2010

Drop It Like It’s Hot

Good afternoon everyone, thanks for another great week of conversation.   I would like to take the time to thank all of the guest posters and columnists this week for their excellent work.  Your voices are a large part of what makes Womanist Musings so unique.   The more people that contribute, the greater the chance that we can have amazing conversations from different perspectives.  If you would like to help with that goal, please feel free to send either a link to your blog post, or your original work in via e-mail.  womanistmuinsgs [at] gmail.com

Below you will find links to a few (okay more than a few) great posts that I came across this week.  Please show these bloggers some love and check them out.  When you are done, don’t forget to drop it like it’s hot, and leave your link behind in the comment section.

 

When Love Hurts

Why I’m Not Celebrating the Pill

Language Matters: ‘Undocumented’ versus “Illegal”

My Heart Beats

FAQ: When Did You Become a Man in Your Dreams?

Betty White Was Great, But Why All The Gay Jokes?

Reconciling abortion with my motherhood

The Birthday I’m Suppose to Dread

Rejecting the PREMISE of the QUESTION- Contemporary Public Humiliation of Professional Black Women

Coming Out To My Mother

Tears of a Clown

What if the North Had Seceded?

The Teaching Role

Media Plays a Role in Hate Crimes

Five Myths That Hurt Intersex People

ABC’s Modern Family: How “Modern” is its Gay Couple?

They Don’t Go Away….

That government of the people, by the people , for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

I hate MTF and FTM

Saving “Africa”? Who said they want it?

Disability and birth control part one, part two, part three

New Exhibit “Harlem Renaissance: As Gay as It  was Black”

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS REVERSE RACISM

The Pursuit of Nappiness: Why It’s Not “Just Hair”

As Fat As I Wanna Be

The curious case of Not Meaning Anything By It

It’s better when you just admit the real issue!

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Friday, May 14, 2010

It’s Friday and the Question is…..

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Last night I was watching “The Marriage Ref” and one of the couples had me cracking up because they reminded me so much of the unhusband and I.  One man who seemed to have a thing for sleeveless shirts, was trying to convince his husband to change his clothes for a party that they were about to attend.  It seems that he felt that his spouse’s appearance reflected upon him, and he dearly wanted his husband to change his clothes.  In my opinion, they  both needed a visit from Clinton Kelley of “What Not To Wear”. 

I can absolutely relate with this dilemma.  The unhusband has a Toronto Maple Leafs baseball hat that is sweat stained and older than our first son.  The thing looks horrendous, and if he is waiting for The Leafs to win the Stanley Cup before he gets rid of it, it will never end up in the garbage where it belongs. So here it is, what item of clothing do you really think that your partner should get rid of?

Kangaroo Says Let’s Get It In

About once a day I browse Jezebel.  When I came upon this story over there I simply had to share it.  Apparently, there is a kangaroo in the Northern Territory of Australia, who has set his heart and frankly other body parts on getting his groove on.

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One woman recounted her terror when the kangaroo, which she said was obviously aroused, followed her as she went for a morning walk along a bike track.

Realising that she was being followed, the woman turned around and found the lovelorn animal staring at her.

“I turned around and saw this big kangaroo behind me, so I hastened my steps,” the woman told the Northern Territory News.

“It seemed a bit odd, but I continued walking and didn’t think much about it. On my return walk he was there waiting for me. With his male pride on full alert, he started circling me.

“There was no doubt about what he wanted, the randy old thing. It was a huge kangaroo and quite intimidating.”

The woman said that she tried to shoo the kangaroo away “to show him I wasn’t interested, but he was persistent”. He eventually bounded off when other walkers approached.

Later that day a mother of three encountered the kangaroo at a night-time speedway meeting, while a man said that he challenged the intimidating macropod and came off second best, receiving a swift punch in response.

Randy thing indeed, though I can imagine that for the women involved this must have been quite the terrifying experience, I have to giggle at the man in question being bested when he tried to defend his lady’s honour.

This is the natural consequence of encroaching on an animals territory.  Unless its deer quietly playing in our backyards (note: North American perspective) we tend to see animals as invading our spaces.  We call them nuisances because their existence impedes our way of life. As we continue to demand more and more space, our interactions will increase and unfortunately it will be animals who pay the consequence. 

What this story should teach us is that other than finding room in our hearts for domesticated animals like dogs and cats,  we need to find a way to co-exist with animals.   It is humanity that is the invasion force and they are just doing what comes naturally to them.

 

“Progresista no quiere decir pro-mujer, or, Progressive does not mean pro-woman”

image Eugenia de Altura is a female graduate student conducting research on issues of women and gender in the cities of La Paz and El Alto, Bolivia. Bolivia is the poorest country in Latin America with the exception of Haiti, and over 60% of the country’s population is of indigenous descent. Eugenia’s postings explore women’s rights, sexuality, and reproductive health in Bolivia and in Latin America as a whole.

 

Since the historic ascendance of Bolivia’s first indigenous president to office in 2006, there has been much discussion and debate over the meaning of Evo Morales’ administration for the country’s disadvantaged groups. On the one hand, the rise of Morales, an Aymara Indian, is a vindication for Bolivia’s indigenous groups, which represent over 60% of the country’s population. In addition, Morales’ anti-capitalist policies appeal to many in Bolivia, where pro-capitalist governments have often sold off the country’s natural resources to powerful foreign nations. (The silver that was removed from the Cerro Rico mountain in Potosí, Bolivia, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries financed the entire Spanish conquest of Latin America.)

For feminist and women’s rights groups in Bolivia, however, Evo’s presidency has represented something of a mixed blessing. While the past four years have witnessed a re-valorization of indigenous women’s clothing, culture, and identity, many complain that Evo’s administration has reproduced the gender inequalities that characterize the country’s indigenous communities. While Andean cosmology ostensibly contains an element of gender complementarity—wherein each aspect of community and nature comprise male and female parts—in practice, community leaders are male, women work a “double day,” and domestic and sexual violence against women are the norm.

Defenders of Morales’ gender politics point to his recent decision to place an equal number of men and women in his government cabinet. Dedicating this move to his sister and mother, last January Morales carefully hand-picked several women to serve as Ministers in his new cabinet.

Although in general, gender parity in government is a positive development, critics have noted that Morales overlooked many intelligent, experienced female candidates in favor of pro-government women who are poorly prepared for these high-profile positions. Placing unprepared women in office reinforces stereotypes that women in general are inept at politics. Bolivian activist Dunia Mokrani Chávez also points out that Morales accompanied his decision to place women in his cabinet with a statement that women are now equal to men and should cease organizing. This March, in a speech for International Women’s Day, Morales chided Bolivian women for being “envious” of one another and condescendingly argued that, if women want more positions in government, they need to “work hard” and “prove themselves” (ostensibly, to him).

It should not be surprising that a supposedly progressive, leftist president has questionable ideas about gender. In Latin America, as Mokrani remarks, “’being part of the left doesn’t mean you don’t face machismo.’” As journalist Estrella Gutiérrez notes, leftist governments in Latin America have rolled back important women’s rights in the past several years, particularly abortion rights. Although in early 2010 eleven Latin American governments could be described as progressive, two of these—Nicaragua and Uruguay—passed new legislation against abortion.

For politically progressive individuals, the fact that Latin American leftists hold dubious gender politics is an important lesson, and the lesson is this: in a continent that has suffered centuries of exploitation from foreign capitalists, the battles of the left are largely economic. Even in Bolivia, where ethnic vindication is an important platform of Morales’ movement, the particular concerns of indigenous women are still overlooked. As hooks’ Ain’t I a Woman taught us for the U.S., Morales’ ambivalence to truly consider indigenous women’s concerns is an important lesson that, far from obsolete, indigenous women’s organizing is absolutely necessary—perhaps now more than ever.

Do You Feel Vulnerable Without Makeup?

It was described as a special no makeup zone edition of “Today”.  Hosts Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoka Kotb were called “bare faced”.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

It was a simple idea designed to show a dramatic difference.  Hoday Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford women we are used to seeing like this everyday, today like this; the way they really look. 

Kotb: I feel vulnerable

Gifford: You know we’re used to having things really covered up. A little protection

Kotb:  I never really thought about it really but now that I see our monitor I know why.

Both women untouched clearly touched a nerve.  A number of Today show viewers posted their own naked faces and strong messages of support. One said this reminds me of the dorms in college.  For one week each year all the mirrors were covered so that the girls wouldn’t look at themselves and feel fat or ugly.  We would have to go to class “as is”.  Another denounced makeup by saying that you can still feel beautiful without it.  This all started as a challenge from Rosie O'Donnell  who showed her face this morning. So did Meredith Ferreira and Anne Curry.  But a few members of the morning family were missing.

Anne Curry: The bottom line is that the men on the show, they’re wearing makeup too. 

You’d think they know by now that men are notoriously vain.

I suppose that I am one of those stereotypical bloggers.  As I type this, I am in my pyjamas, drinking a cup of green tea (yes Sparky it’s tea) without any makeup.  When I go out later, I can absolutely guarantee that I will not be wearing makeup.  This is not because I am trying to make some sort of statement, I generally speaking don’t wear makeup.   I don’t feel vulnerable or unattractive without it.  I also cannot relate to this as some sort of libratory experiment.

I have friends that won’t even run to the corner store without some sort of makeup and personally, I find the concept ridiculous.   As women, we know that the world is going to  judge us no matter what we do and when we feed it with these manufactured insecurities, it is only made that much worse. 

There are literally millions of women who go makeup free everyday because their main concern is not looking pretty, or performing for the patriarchy, but survival.  I think that this is very much a bourgeoisie concern.  The women that found this practice freeing, were all college educated women with obvious class privilege. 

I think that this little experiment highlights a division in women’s organizing that rarely gets vocalized.  The women with the greatest opportunity to verbalize female oppression, most often do so from a specific lens and then in so doing, eliminate the concerns of marginalized women. Is makeup a concern when you are walking miles to save bus fare? 

What is good for one group of women does not necessarily translate to benefits for all women -- and this point needs to be clearly understood.  While they may have felt strong going on television without makeup, for me, it was hard not to roll my eyes with disdain.  Incidents like this are exactly why women’s organizing seems so out of touch.  Until we dedicate ourselves to giving voice to the myriad of concerns that complicate our lives, we will continue to have these weak statements of strength that are absolutely meaningless and translate to zero growth.   An active women’s movement includes and radicalizes the experience of all. 

 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

One Night In Chicago








I came across the above video looking at gang violence in Chicago and it broke my heart to see it.  I currently live in a working class neighbourhood, that is slowly being gentrified.   When I first bought my home, my co-workers warned me that my neighbourhood was not a good one for raising children.  I will admit that the nearest school is not great, which is why my children go to the French board, but my neighbours and I look out for each other and in the 10 years that we have lived here, I have never feared violence.

I have seen the young kids walking down my street, full of youthful bravado, pretending to be tough, and I have remarked to my unhusband, that these punks don’t know what tough is.   I have no experience with the kind of violence that is happening in these Chicago neighbourhoods, because my parents lived in a solidly middle class area and as an adult I have always been able to ensure that I have lived in safe areas. 

It saddens me to think of a 13 year old boy who is too scared to play outside, when my children live outdoors and feel safe and secure.   I have never in my life heard a gun shot, and have only actually seen a gun in the hands of a police officer.  This is not say that guns don’t end up in the hands of criminals in Canada, it is simply a reflection of the fact that we do not have a glorification of gun culture here.  This is also not to say that gangs and illegal drugs don’t exist here, but our crime rates are lower.

The following are facts listed in “No Excuse for Gun Violence,” and article written by Julianne Malveaux:

  1. approximately 2,500 Black youth 15-24 who die each year from gun homicide.
  2. African American youth are more likely than any other group of young people to be killed by guns.
  3. an African American youth is 18 times more likely to die in a firearms homicide than a white youth. And for every youngster killed by a gun four are injured.

Wherever reports exist regarding the gun violence in the African-American community, two factors repeatedly arise:  poverty, and an easy access to weapons.  I am not suggesting that all poor people are violent, but I do believe that there is a connection between the state of hopelessness that arises out of living in poverty and gang violence.  When young kids look around and they see no positive role models, and see that no matter how hard their parents work that they cannot seem to get ahead, it makes the gang life and the easy money that comes as a result of criminal behaviour seem appealing.

The mere fact that in some areas it is easier to buy a gun than open a bank account should be a trigger warning.  I know that many believe that guns don’t kill people and that people kill people; however, that little platitude can only really be believed when it is not your sons and daughters being shot down in the streets.  Perhaps for the U.S., it has already reached the point of no return regarding regulating weapons, but a real effort is not being made to get these guns off of the street.  This is what your right to bear arms has wrought.  These guns are being used to hunt people and I highly doubt that the framers of your constitution could even invasion the kind of weaponry that we are capable of building today.  Their right to bear arms considered muskets, and to act like the constitution is such a perfect document that it does not require updating when society has continued to evolve is incredibly obtuse.

I am not an American citizen -- but I am a citizen of the African Diaspora and when I see so many of youth laid to waste because they have been cast aside it breaks my heart both as a Black woman and as a mother.   I know that each day some Black mother is sitting in a funeral home weeping over the potential lost from her womb.  Black women have yet to reach the point whenwe can stop crying in pain over our babies -- and I don’t know that I will ever see that day in my lifetime.

This is not the kind of post that well ever appear with frequency or urgency on a feminist blog, because most White feminist fail to see how Black women are connected to the violence both perpetrated by and on Black men.  We cannot afford to disconnect ourselves because they are our sons, fathers and brothers.  We are bound by blood, love, and race and therefore,  a Black woman cannot  see these connections as casual.   Since the violence very much effects Black women, this issue must become a woman’s issue.   Violence cannot only be conceived of as violence against women, it must be understood as violence committed by those we love and violence committed against the people we love, because the end result, is that our lives are irrevocably impacted. 

I know that some will feel that this approach diffuses women’s issues to focus on Black men and to that I say, White women have always acted in concert with White men to oppress POC, and it is a debt owed to our community, that you work to undo some of the damage your desire to possess racial privilege has caused.  The men that are dying are seen largely as disposable except by their mothers, daughters, and sisters, who weep at their passing.  If you cannot speak about this issue from the point of view of ending the violence caused by racism and poverty, then do so with a woman’s heart from the position of drying the tears of a grieving motherhood.  Fight for our sons, brothers, and fathers and then perhaps I will believe there is some solidarity, because we will not be separated from them.

     

 


Should Anyone Die Over a Tube of Toothpaste?

image Anthony Kyser, an unemployed barber walked into a CVS in Chicago and stole a tube of toothpaste.  Normally when someone shoplifts, they end up in jail; however, Kyser ended up with a one way trip to the morgue.

The manager caught Kyser stealing and chased him into an alley.  He then proceeded to place Kyser in a chokehold.

Witnesses said Kyser, of the 1400 block of South Hamlin, cried, "I can't breathe, I can't breathe!" as the CVS worker held him in a chokehold for what they thought was several minutes. Three other men attempted to restrain him in the alley behind the 2600 block of South Pulaski, the witnesses said.

The medical examiner ruled Kyser's death a homicide, saying an autopsy showed he had been strangled, but police said Sunday the employee who killed him won't be charged.

Police are treating the death as "accidental," Chicago Police spokesman Daniel O'Brien said. (source)

To be clear, the employee chased the man down and then strangled him to to death, how is this accidental?  It actually takes a lot of strength to choke someone to death, and the hold would have had to have been applied for a long period of time.  No mater what Kyser may have stolen, he certainly did not deserve to die. 

The failure to charge the employee with murder or even manslaughter, evidences what little regard we have for the lives of Black men, the poor, and ex cons.  In the stories that I have seen written on this issue, the fact that Kyser is a recovering addict and had served time for prison for drug convictions, has been used to justify the way in which he was murdered.

Even if Kyser had been lucky enough to escape this terrible incident with his life, he still may have suffered brain damage. The brain does not like to be deprived of oxygen.  The employee must have felt Kyser’s body go limp as he lost his struggle to escape -- and yet he held him in that position until policed arrived.  How is an unconscious man still a threat?  His intent must have been to do bodily harm, or he would have not chosen a hold that has been known to lead to death.

The following are two comments that I found at Blackvoices.  I have chosen them because they are quite representative of the commentary I read on various blogs researching this piece.

Well, hell why not just let hime go! Its just toothpaste,its just a wallet,its just a car its just money,its just someones tools. The toothpaste nor the employees caused his death. HE caused his death by putting his grubby hands on something that was not his to touch and trying to get away or fight. You were not there so shut the f up. There should be no compensation for the man who died the parents should give an appology to the store and the employees for their rotton drug addicted theif convict son.

You will note that the concern of the above commenter is not the loss of life, but rather devaluing Kyser because of drug addiction and a criminal record.  A drug addiction is a disease and the coercive government policies regarding illegal substances, more often than not exacerbates the problem rather than helping anyone battling with addiction.

I also think that it is important to note that the commenter had no problem believing that a commodity was worth more than the life of a human being.  Stealing is wrong, but I daresay that murder is a far worse crime. Items can always be replaced but a life cannot.

This has nothing to do with black or white, it has to do with stealing, taking what does not belong to you. If he had not fought back he would be alive today, maybe going back to jail but he would be alive. Don't blame this on anyone except Kyser, he was the one breaking the law.

Even though it was reported that the Kyser repeatedly said that he could not breathe, according to the person above, he should have surrendered an died a peaceful death.  NONSENSE.  Clearly the above commentator has no idea the adrenaline that would have been flowing through his body as the fight or flight instinct kicked in.  If you cannot breathe, you are going to fight, struggle, and do everything possible to try and take a breath.  There is a reason that police officers cannot put suspects in a choke hold and I think that we should remember that instead of once again re-victimising Kyser by suggesting his death wasn’t quiet enough.

Right now there is rage being expressed about this story across the internet; however, Kyser’s name will quickly drift off the front page while his step children and ex wife deal with the loss of the man they called pops.  We won’t think about the ways in which Black men, ex cons and drug addicts are devalued until the next time some one is accidentally killed murdered in cold blood. But each day we allow a system that is corrupt to decide what the value of a human being is we perpetuate the idea that property rights are more important than life. CVS would not have missed the small profit that they would have lost from the toothpaste but I bet those kids will always miss their pops.


Lost Auction Preview

I have not done a weekly breakdown of “Lost” because it is well done by many other blogs.  In fact, you may have noticed that on Wednesday’s the content might be a bit light occasionally, and that is because I spend far too much time at Shakesville breaking down the last episode to its most minute detail.  Yes, I am on one of those “Lost” junkies.  With the show ending, I have to say that I am really going to miss it.  I have been actively thinking about a replacement but nothing has come close to “Lost” so far,  though I have been enjoying shows like “V” and “Flash Forward”

I just found out that there will be an auction this summer of “Lost” memorabilia.  Though I am sure it will all run right out of my price range, there are a few things I wouldn’t mind having.  Yes, I know I need help, but, but, but, it’s “Lost.”

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 The ring, featuring the initials "DS" and is worn by Charlie on his ring middle finger, is a Pace family heirloom.  It bears the initials of Dexter Stratton, Charlie's great-grandfather.  It is passed down to Charlie's brother, Liam, first.  Liam, however, gives it to Charlie, who Liam deems more of a family man and has a better chance of passing the ring along to an heir.  (Ironically it is Liam who settles down and has a daughter.)  Before embarking on his fatal mission to the Looking Glass, Charlie leaves the ring in Aaron's crib, passing the ring on to the infant who in their short time together on the Island had become something of an adopted son to Charlie.

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 Rousseau's music box is an ornate mechanical musical box with a hinge lid that when opened plays the song, "Intermezzo" from Carmen (Georges Bizet, 1875).  There is a small dancing pair that twirls around in the center.  The box is given to Danielle Rousseau by her lover, Robert -- Alex's biological father.  When the music box is first seen it has been broken for a long time, yet it has also comforted Rousseau during her time of solitude on the Island.  After being held captive by Rousseau, Sayid manages to fix the box, much to Rousseau's delight.  In a time flash sequence, a young Rousseau is clutching the music box on a raft while her crew mates rescues Jin at sea in 1988.

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 Eko's stick is Mr. Eko's signature prop, nicknamed the "Jesus stick" by Charlie and called a prayer stick by Locke.  Eko makes his staff from a branch he broke off on the beach, carving into it various Bible scriptures (book, chapter, and sometimes verse), a small cross, and the Numbers.  When asked by Claire what he was carving, Eko answers, "Things I need to remember."

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 The winning $114 million Mega Lotto Jackpot ticket with the numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and mega number 42 -- numbers that recur throughout the series.  Hurley buys the ticket while still working for Mr. Clucks.  But rather than being happy with winning the lottery, Hurley considers it a curse and fears that his life will change.  Seeing the numbers again on the Island only confirms what Hurley believes: that his life is plagued by an unexplainable curse.

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 United States passport and Customs Declaration form belonging to Jack.

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 Compass given by Richard Alpert to Locke during a time shift sequence, so that Richard will believe Locke if they meet in the past.  When Locke time-shifted to 1954, he gives Richard the same compass, thereby earning his trust.  In 2007, Jacob's nemesis, posing as Locke, gives Richard the compass and instructs him to give it to Locke, creating a self-containing paradoxical time-loop.

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 Penned in 1976 by an 8-year-old James Ford on a torn-off lined notebook paper during his parents' funeral, this letter is addressed to "Mr. Sawyer," the man who Sawyer deems responsible for his parents' deaths.  The letter reads, in part:  "All I know is your name. But one of these days I'm going to find you and I'm going to give you this letter so you'll remember what you done to me. You killed my parents, Mr. Sawyer."  At the age of 19, James Ford takes up the name "Sawyer" and begins carrying the letter with him at all times in the event he ever meets the real Sawyer.  Includes the original letter-size envelope.

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Prop French driver license and Iraqi identification card for Sayid.  The French driver license shows Sayid's picture with the name "Shakir Al-Sayyab Badr," a possible alias from the time Sayid worked for the CIA.

There are over 100 items on the auction list.  It’s enough to make a  true “Lost” fan drool.  Above are the items that interested me the most, but I could not help but notice that a few things were missing, for instance where is Richard’s necklace?  Where is the dagger that was given to Sayid to stab the man in black?

What “Lost” item would you like to own and what item do you think really should have been on the list?

Womanhood vs. Culture: female genital “nick” an unworthy compromise

image This is a guest post by Ope Bukola who is the founder/Editor of a new online magazine for young black women called Zora&Alice.  “From work to health to relationships to politics, when you’re with your sisters, it all gets talked about. It’s a conversation that doesn’t force you to get in a box and stay there. You’ll sound confident and fragile, hopeful and cynical, silly and serious. Your mood will shift. You’ll contradict yourself. Others may see a girl at odds with herself. We see a girl figuring out herself.”

image Browsing my rss feeds last Friday, I came across a terrifying headline via Feministing: “Female Genital Cutting Added to Possible Procedures via American Association of Pediatricians.” The post referenced a press release by  Equality Now which condemns a statement by the AAP that “promotes female genital mutilation (FGM) and advocates for “federal and state laws [to] enable paediatricians to reach out to families by offering a ‘ritual nick’,” such as pricking or minor incisions of girls’ clitorises. ”

I’ve gotten too worked up over statements that turned out to be only half-truths so I headed over to the AAP website for the primary source.  As it turns out, Feministing’s headline is overblown, as is claiming the AAP is promoting FGM.  Instead, the AAP proposes  a “compromise,”  noting:

“Some physicians, including pediatricians who work closely with immigrant populations in which FGC is the norm, have voiced concern about the adverse effects of criminalization of the practice on educational efforts.32 These physicians emphasize the significance of a ceremonial ritual in the initiation of the girl or adolescent as a community member and advocate only pricking or incising the clitoral skin as sufficient to satisfy cultural requirements. This is no more of an alteration than ear piercing. A legitimate concern is that parents who are denied the cooperation of a physician will send their girls back to their home country for a much more severe and dangerous procedure or use the services of a non–medically trained person in North America.”

While I think the compromise approach is ultimately wrong, I can understand  the AAP’s dilemma.   The AAP’s new position, and the reactions that have followed, highlight a thorny issue when it comes to cultural assimilation:  what do we do if a culture has traditionally important but inhumane or anti-women traditions?

As an immigrant and a child of immigrants, this question hits close to home.  For example, in my own culture, after the death of a woman’s husband, it’s not uncommon for the deceased husband’s family to claim ownership over all his  marital property, leaving the wife and children with little. While technically illegal, this practice is not uncommon. I once overhead a group of men, including my father, discussing the issue. One man vehemently defended the traditional law that prohibits women from owning land. In the case of the deceased husbands, he believed wives should keep everything except land (essentially the most valuable property).  I didn’t jump into the fray in that conversation but, growing up, I often argued with my parents over elements of  our tradition that I perceived to be anti-women.

As our country becomes increasingly diverse, we’ll have to face more  situations that pit culture against women’s rights. If our goal is to  foster trust between immigrant communities and American officials (doctors, police, etc.), then we must respect their cultures. It is extremely insulting to assume that women want or need to be saved from their culture. That is the attitude of the supporters of the ill-advised bans against face coverings in some European countries. That being said, cultural relativism can and should have its limits. Most states have outlawed corporal punishment in public schools, regardless of cultural feelings about it. We can’t forsake our national standards on human rights for the sake of respecting cultural traditions.

So how do we  balance cultural relativism and individual rights? It must come down to a matter of agency. Our goal should be to create an environment in which women have the agency over their own lives. I might try to convince someone she’s made the wrong choice, but I’d never want to take that choice away from her. Many women will, in the name of culture, religion, or other beliefs, choose to place themselves under what looks to others to be “restrictions.” To each her own.

The issue gets more complicated when it comes to the choices women can make for their children. Clearly, young children can’t act on their agency, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have it.  In taking a stance,  we have to consider not just the potential for physical arm, but also the intent. More than just being a cultural practice, FGM is intended to “preserve virginity and family honour and prevent immorality… further marriage goals, including enhancement of sexual pleasure for men.”  FGM takes away young women’s  self determination and sexual agency.  It doesn’t make sense to offer even a physically harmless “watered down” option. If modern Chinese tried to revive the ancient tradition of foot binding, the right response would be to condemn not just the practice but the intent/philosophy behind it.

There are circumstances where compromises for the sake of culture makes sense. Ultimately, this isn’t one of them.

What do you think? Did the AAP make the right decision? When does it make sense to compromise for cultural reasons?

 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

America Racially Profiles Elena Kagan, AZ Applauds

There is a very interesting article up at Jack and Jill Politics.  I am going to get you started and you can finish reading it over there.

Some folks are wondering why questions of sexuality are bring raised for Elena Kagan when they were not done for Sonia Sotomayor. In my mind, it boils down to something fairly basic:

Kagan is white and Sotomayor is not.*

Let me explain. For the type of people who are fond of profiling, Kagan fits the description: white, unmarried, intellectual, not terribly “attractive”. Black or Latina women that fall into that same line aren’t questioned on their sexuality because they don’t “seem” gay; they’re just cast as accomplished yet pitiable career women who have little hope of snaring a mate with whom to settle down.

In the American conscience, to be a lesbian of a certain age is really just shorthand for being a feminist; a card-carrying member of NOW and an acolyte of Betty Friedan. While I won’t go so far as to say the sexual aspect of the questions regarding Kagan’s sexuality are irrelevant, I will say I think these inquiries are more a petty and contemptuous probing of her feminism. (I strongly doubt the president would have the stones to nominate a possibly gay man for the bench since male sexuality whips people into a different kind of frenzy).

It’s the radical feminist menace that ruffled the old boys’ feather and the representatives of that menace were overwhelmingly–and often deliberately–white.

The feminist movements in the United States had parallel histories split between the predominantly white–and highly exclusionary–narrative and the one that included women of color in this struggle. The former was able to set the tone in many regards and became the face of “what a feminist is.”

For many, feminists are merely smartypants white women that hate men and don’t do as they’re told. Given this perception, the “oh, well she’s probably a lesbian” coup de grace wasn’t/isn’t exactly a leap. In many ways, it’s the white version of being called uppity.

Finish reading here

The Colour of Beauty: White Girls That Are Painted Black

The following documentary looks at the struggles of Renée Thompson, a beautiful Black model attempting to gain a spot in New York fashion week.  Despite the fact that she is clearly beautiful, the racism in the fashion industry has been insurmountable.

Justin Perry, Renée’s agent makes it clear why he believes Renée has a chance to succeed when he says:

The girls that are really just being featured in everything, they really have unique features for African Americans. You know the very skinny nose the very elegant face. They really look like White girls that were painted Black. That’s beauty you know through the industry’s perspective, to agents perspective. When they see that, when they see a girl that can look different by skin pigment and still have great features like that it is sellable.

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What the agents and designers seem to dance around throughout this short documentary is that they are actively practicing racism.

Jeanne Beker the host of “Fashion Television” had this to say:

There still seems to be this crazy kind of racism, I hate to call it that . A kind of consciousness in the fashion world, that sometimes you do see, you know a Black girl on the runway it’s almost out of a tokenism. Everyone’s pointing fingers. Some people might say that it’s the agents that are to blame, they’re not scouting these girls, they’re not encouraging them, they’re not signing them. Maybe it’s the designers right off the bat; designers should insist that this is my aesthetic. Like for ad campaigns hire girls that can just bring a little more diversity to the table.

While she may hate to call it racism, that is exactly what it is.  When agents, and designers are actively saying that they “need a Black model but she has to be a White girl dipped in chocolate,” it speaks to a specific rejection of all things Black.  African American features are not seen as attractive and Perry, Renee’s agent confirms this:

You know when you come in with big eyes, big nose, big whatever, big lips, things that are common traits in African-Americans it doesn’t work. But for those lucky few girls that like Renee, they have White girl features an it’s kind of messed up but that is just the way that the industry is.

It is only like this because Whiteness is in control of the fashion industry that there is a refusal to admit that they are using their power to promote a White aesthetic. While they may claim not to be racist themselves, their actions serve to further White supremacy. It it any wonder that a young age Black children learn to overvalue Whiteness?

The Black woman has long been seen as the ultimate un-woman and despite the supposed advances, race and gender continue to leave Black women at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Fashion is but one manifestation of the ways in which we continue to be “othered”. Black women are called angry when they rightfully lash out against blatant racism, because we are expected to accept our second class status without complaint.  That it is exhausting to constantly wage a battle to be recognized as human and therefore valuable, is not considered.  We are constantly told that our tone is why Whiteness does not listen; however, Black women are well aware that  White supremacy is dedicated to maintaining the race and gender divisions, because it serves to cement power.

Renée Thompson knows very well what she is up against:

It does get very discouraging. It gets to a point where you feel like you are constantly justifying your worth and what you can contribute to the business. You can only take so much beating up everyday and constant rejection, or that fear every time you walk through that casting door that you are going to be reminded that once again you’re a Black girl. Quitting seems to me like you’re giving in to that racist facade or that you’re giving into saying that, that’s okay that you think that. It’s not okay. It’s not okay that you think that I am different or lesser than. It’s not, so I’m going to stay right here and be a sore in your eye until you recognize what I am good for.

In the U.S there is a backlash because of a fear of a loss of White privilege, and yet in every avenue Black women have not approached anything resembling equality.  We earn less, we die earlier and we raise our children largely in poverty.  In the media we are portrayed as licentious whores, crack addicts, desperate, or angry, and yet we struggle on in the face of a determined effort to ensure that we remain voiceless and invisible.

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It is not surprising when we learn at the end of the film that Renée has failed in her effort to get a job for fashion week.  Dallas J. Logan, a fashion photographer points out, “Nobody wants to invest money in a Black model to do Gucci, Prada and Valentino, because they’re Black and Black doesn’t sell. Point blank, money is green and White people have the money and they are going to buy from White people”.  

Until the day in which equality becomes more than some pseudo liberal buzz word, and an actual concept that society embraces, Black women will continue to struggle.  There is nothing post racial about the world in which we live. Whiteness may have  changed the language of oppression, so as to appear covert, but it still exists to ensure that Blackness is understood to be inferior. Due to a combination of sexism and racism, Black women continue bear the brunt of the brutality of White supremacy.


Us and Them

This is a guest post by Jaded 16

image Jaded16 is a Radical Feminist from India. She writes a humour blog ‘Oi With The Poodles Already’, attempting to make her world a little woman-friendly using healthy doses of irony and sarcasm to de-condition the Indian masses. It is at times like these when she loses all her sense of humour and starts looking for a rock big enough to live under.

Surviving in Mumbai is an acquired skill, my grand mum used to say. This city offers hope to millions of citizens to become ‘someone important’, to become rich, to break into the Bollywood industry or make every other dream of theirs into reality. Based on these fantasies, millions migrate daily into the city. If their fairy tales were played out in the real world, they'd crumble in two seconds flat, leaving you feeling bitter and cheated - not unlike the disillusionment Mumbai instils on every (once) dreamy eye. It doesn't matter whether Mumbai is your hometown or not. You're just as much a stranger to the city as the clichéd immigrant.

Before you know it, you've settled for serving coffee to the editor instead of hoping to be the person reporting interesting stories. Soon enough you realise Living is Surviving. In this process, the city becomes your teacher, making you a person you would have never dreamt of. Or so you reassure yourself.
You learn to adjust to the perpetual humid climate, you learn the correct way to elbow your way out of the crowded trains, you learn to ‘tolerate' men brushing past you almost daily and perhaps the most important of all, you learn the fine art of 'othering'.

You learn to see the world in two halves: You and Them.

Every time you see a beggar, you turn your heart into stone, look away. You've heard stories about these beggars being addicts, child molesters, and con- artists. You try not to cringe in shame when you see a tiny boy stealing the biscuits you left for stray dogs. You tell yourself, "They are lazy people. Instead of begging on the streets, they should look for jobs". Soon you have a scale of judging "those people" – you decide whether the beggar looks healthy or not, whether zie looks capable enough to hold a job. Only if they are truly destitute or missing limbs from their body, you give them money. Even then, you look at fellow straphangers in the train, searching for assurance that the beggar truly deserved your charity.

You learn to 'other' people from different religions or cultures next. You label people as 'Bihari', 'Muslim', 'Tamilian', 'Sikh' or 'Christian' based on their attire and dialect. Being next to anyone of those people doesn’t bother you much if you're in a crowd, bus or train. In restaurants however, you say, "I can't sit next to those non-veg eating people" and ask the manager to re-locate you. You say, "I've got nothing against Muslims" yet you think they "smell", they are "backward and orthodox", they are "fundamentalists". When people accuse you of being biased, you say, "Now not All of them are like THAT. But most of them are". You claim to be a person sensitive to other cultures yet you will vote for the candidate who speaks your language or 'prefers' your culture over others. You learn to turn up the volume of your TV and apathy every time you hear your neighbour beating his wife. You say to yourself, "I can't meddle with their lives. Besides, they're a Marwari family. In such cultures, this is bound to happen". You tell yourself "This would never happen in a Hindu family".

You tell your child not to discriminate between boys and girls, between gay or straight people; yet you turn up your nose when you see two men walking hand in hand. You tell your children, "There's nothing wrong in being That Way" but you'll exclaim in disbelief that a Girl you knew was homosexual. You say. "I raised my daughter as every other boy. I let her play all she wanted. Now, is the time to become a woman and settle down". You say, "Of course my daughter is educated! How else will she find a decent, educated boy?". When someone points out to you your bias and sexism, you exclaim loudly, "I'm not one of those uneducated people! I gave my daughter the best education. What more do you want? We have to think practically after all".

On the news, you see reports of another rape, molestation, murder or numerous other disasters. You quickly blame the "system", "corporate sector", "capitalism", "those lazy politicians", "western cultures" and say, "This is what this cracked city does to you". You claim that you can buy and sell morals, integrity and  people out here. You say, "In my time Bombay was paradise. Now it's a hellhole full of rapists, drug addicts and other low-lifes. They should all be killed".

Every time I hear these slurs a part of me melts away. I want to scream, "The city has nothing to do with your flawed logic!" but they just say, "These feminist bitches have a problem with everything!”

So now, I have two options: either 'learn' from the city and 'survive' with 'them' or look into my own heart to learn to 'live', 'believe' and 'expect MORE'. As it turns out, I'm not that jaded. Yet.

So, the next time, you're 'othering' someone else, remember to not back up your argument with "Those people...” We people nay 'feminists bitches' deserve better comebacks. About time now.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lawrence Taylor’s Alleged Victim Speaks Out

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When I heard that LT had been arrested, on suspicion of raping an underage girl in NY, I did not go into a state a shock.  Though he has won two super bowls, his personal history is fraught with trouble.

Disgraced Giants great Lawrence Taylor admitted paying a hooker $300 for sex — but may not have known she was just 16. The revelation that Taylor fessed up to patronizing a prostitute was contained in a criminal complaint against accused pimp Rasheed Davis that was released before he was to be arraigned Friday in Manhattan federal court on sex trafficking charges.

Davis allegedly beat the girl before taking her to the lecherous linebacker’s Rockland County hotel room early Thursday and told her to tell Taylor “she was 19-years-old,” the document states. Confronted later by arresting officers, Taylor said he “met with a female” that cops identified as the teenager and after “engaging in sex acts” paid her “$300 in cash.” Taylor was charged later with third-degree rape and patronizing a prostitute – charges that could send him to the slammer for up to four years if convicted.

The age of consent in New York is 17. Ignorance of the victim’s age is not a defense, police said. His lawyer, Arthur Aidala, insisted Taylor did not rape – or have sex – with anybody at the Holiday Inn in Montebello, N.Y. Both Aidala and Taylor’s wife, Lynette, said the 51-year-old Hall of Famer was the victim of a “set-up.”

Taylor had no idea the “skinny Spanish girl” he paid for sex was a minor, her big sister told The Daily News earlier Friday. Davis, who dubbed the teenager “Carmen,” warned her “she would get a worse beating if she tried to tell Mr. Taylor anything,” the sister said.

“She said she had no choice but to go along with it,” the sister said. “She doesn’t blame Mr. Taylor because he had no idea (she was a minor). “The 17-year-old sis said the “date” with Taylor was arranged by a music producer who knows both the ex-Giant and Davis. She did not know his name. “He relayed the message that Mr. Taylor was willing to pay $300 for a skinny Spanish girl,” the sister said. “Since Rasheed knew my sister, he volunteered her for this. He forced her into becoming a prostitute that night.” [source]

Even though Taylor apparently asked the young woman her age prior to engaging in sex rape, the fact remains that he still thought that having sex raping a young woman that had clearly been beaten was acceptable.  How could she possibly have consented when she feared reprisal for saying no?

"I was a huge Giant fan," she said, "and I used to look up to him." She added, "I don't want to ruin his reputation," despite what happened in the hotel room.

"After all," she said, "He's in the Hall of Fame and he won two Super Bowls."

The teen said the door to Taylor's room was open when she arrived that night.

"I walked in and it was dark," she said. "The only light was coming from the TVs in the living room and the bedroom. Lawrence Taylor was naked. We made some small conversation at the start.

"I didn't know who he was and he didn't tell me his name, either. He just said he was from Miami.

"He asked my age, and I told him I was 19," said the girl, who looks considerably younger. "I knew what I was there for, and if I didn't give him what he wanted, there would be consequences from Rasheed. I was afraid." [source]

Apparently a condom was found on the scene which I assume contains DNA evidence.  So I am just going to say it as simply as I can: if pimps did not believe that there would be a profit in trafficking young girls and women, incidents like this would not happen.

Whether or not LT was lied to about the girls true age is immaterial. What matters is that he still thought that it was acceptable to pay to use a woman’s body like so much trash.  His personal pleasure mattered more to him than what had happened to that young girl before she walked through the door.  This is how the mind of a common John works, they believe that if they themselves don’t do physical harm, that they are not part of a system that preys upon young girls and women. 

While I fully believe that we need to support women that choose to work in the sex industry (note: choice is not always applicable), I don’t believe that we should pretend for one moment, that these men/johns don’t do harm.  Their very existence gives rise to trafficking and sex slavery.  LT’s status as a celebrity should not cause us to ignore what his alleged willing participation gave rise to.

Much of our conversations regarding sex work specifically target women, even in situations in which they are clearly the victim.  It is because we have so heavily invested in slut shaming and controlling female bodies that we ignore the activities of the men/john.  When I look at images of LT, I see yet another man who has absolutely no respect for women.  I see a man who is part of the problem, rather than the solution.  I also see a man of colour who once again has let women of colour down, because he has come to believe in oppression – and make no mistake about it, participating in trafficking (which is what he allegedly did), amounts to oppressing and exploiting a woman.

When MOC point to race as the major oppressor of people of colour, we have only to look to incidents like this to understand that gender continues to divide us.  Just as they rail against the White male patriarchy for it racist abuses, women of colour must come together to fight the sexism that we face, often at the hands of men of colour. Men of colour and women of colour may share a goal of bringing an end to racism; however, when it comes to dismantling the damage of patriarchy, they have yet to act as the allies that they should be.  It is quite clear that for many MOC freedom involves being able to act with the same impunity as straight, cisgender, able-bodied White males and not achieving real equality, which would involve the true emancipation of women.

Spark of Wisdom: When I came out, the pain I cannot run from

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This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.  Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.

I was stuck at a truly dull party the other day. It was one of those awkward events where no-one actually knows anyone else, but everyone pretends they do - all at the instigation of one friend, who seems obsessed with resurrecting old school acquaintances. If I haven't spoken to someone in 10 years or more, there's usually a reason for it.

So here I am, bad drink in hands, checking the clock for the earliest polite opportunity to leave and vaguely considering whether jumping out of a third storey window to freedom would hurt all that much, when an old schoolmate approached. And I had a deer-in-headlights moment

"Do you remember me?"

Yes. I remembered him.

He was my best friend, my oldest friend - a boy I'd known since we were both in nappies  He was the first person I came out to, when I had just turned 14.

I remember my oldest friend hitting me then kicking while I lay on the floor until things cracked.

I remember being taken to hospital by my horrified parents. I remember lying to them about what had happened, saying I'd been mugged (like that was believable). I remember lying to the police.

I remember them not believing me. I remember the months - years - afterwards of them not trusting me, of their worry about what I was involved in, of the constant questions, whether I was using drugs, what I was doing, where I was going. I remember lying about it all. I remember them not believing a word.

I remember my oldest friend telling him.

I remember him and his group ostracising me. I remember him calling me "faggot" and "queer" and "arsebandit" and "fudgepacker"

I remember them throwing things at me. I remember trying not to leave school unless I was in a group. I remember him and his friends waiting for me as I walked to school and walked home.

I remember coming home bruised and bloody and my parents asking why. I remember lying to them, again. I remember the trust I lost, the rift it created. I remember them worrying, I remember my mother crying about it - and still not telling her, still lying to her. I remember lying to them in the hospital and the doctor's office.

I remember him telling my friends, gods I remember him telling half the damn year. I remember people avoiding me, I remember the whispers. I remember lying to them too. I remember telling them I wasn't gay. I remember constantly insisting on being straight when I wasn't. I remember feeling like I had to deny what I was.

I remember lying to my teachers, pretending there was nothing wrong, refusing to talk to them. I remember being angry and snarling at them when they pressed. I remember them wondering if there was something wrong at home.

I remember I stopped going out, becoming something of a hermit because I didn't know if I would meet him and his friends. I remember driving many of my friends away because I didn't trust them any more, because I was scared of them.

I remember being afraid pretty much all the time, I remember being ashamed. I remember hating myself. I remember trying to change. I remember fear of hurting my family being the only real thing holding me back from despair.

I remember this lasting until I left school. I remember picking a college based not on what was best for me - but because I was sure he and his friends weren't going.

I remember it being years before I had the courage to come out to someone again. I remember it being years before I convinced myself they were wrong, not me. I remember it was years before I realised I deserved to be happy, to love, to be.

I remember this, though I've tried REALLY hard not to over the years. I still have the scars - physical and mental. I was damaged by these memories, badly. Not the only damage or perhaps even the most severe, but damaged nevertheless. Damage that took a long time to repair, damage that still isn't entirely fixed.

But he didn't remember, or wanted to pretend it didn't happen. And he  stood there and smiling and carrying on the great pretence that we were friends. That we had good times to talk about. That we had happy memories and pleasant reminiscences.

And I played by the script. I pasted a plastic smile on my face. I laughed, I told pathetic jokes and helped slop whitewash over the mess of history. I joined in the pretence, I kept up the act. I let the lie stand that it didn't matter, that it was bygones, that time had healed all wounds. All the while not sure whether I wanted to run away or go for the throat. But I played nice. I did the acceptable thing, the mature thing.

After all, I'm 28 now. Isn't it petty to hold grudges over things that ended when I was 16? Doesn't it mean I am weak and pathetic to still be hurt by that? Shouldn't an adult be able to put that behind them? Surely there's something wrong with me for this still to matter? Surely I'm being ridiculous treating incidents as a teenager as important?

But it feels important. It took me 4 days to write this. 4 days, when normally I tear off a post in a few hours (hence the typos). 4 days where I kept coming back, deleting, stopping, considering scrapping the whole thing. Beloved and friends have kept me from a funk of depression, I've been trying to raise some anger, to force humour - anything to not feel so... small and weak over this. I still don't know if I'll finish it or how to finish it.

I spend a lot of my time running and hiding from the various incidents of homophobia in my life. It has long been my way of (not) dealing with them. It's ironic that I devote so much time to fighting, confronting and combating homophobia but still do my level best to deny and avoid my own experiences. It is hard to have those walls torn down, to be forced to look at the things I've been so studiously ignoring. And I can't help but feel ashamed that those walls coming down still hurts, that I have somehow failed

So, yes, it was 12-14 years ago, but I am still vulnerable to it. And, though I'm having a problem accepting this, I have a right to be vulnerable to this, to be hurt by this. I have no reason to be ashamed that I am not strong enough to brush this off, nor should I feel like I've failed because it still leaves its mark on me.

Easy words to type... much harder to believe.

It has to be said, as far as parties went it wasn't the best. Next time, I'm totally bringing a cheaper bottle. And maybe an axe.


No Handicapped Persons

Last Saturday was my little man’s birthday party.  Our original plan was to take him and ten of closets brats friends go kart racing at Niagara Go Karts, and then finishing with a round of mini golf.   We called ahead of time and were not given any restrictions; however, when we arrived the signage clearly stated that access was not as open as we originally thought. 

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Not Allowed To Ride

  1. pregnant women
  2. persons with neck or back injuries 
  3. persons under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  4. infants under 3’
  5. Handicapped person are not permitted to drive, but may ride free as a passenge[r]

What exactly is a handicapped person, and who gets to decide whose body fits that description? That particular day I left my home with a cane instead of my scooter, because I knew that I would not be on my feet for a long period of time.  I stood there wondering if I had to submit my body for inspection because of the way that the sign had been written.

This reminded me of the way in which people with invisible disabilities are often attacked, because they don’t match someone’s mental image of what constitutes disabled.  The myth that the differently abled all look a like or think a like despite the diversity of our community is something that we must constantly battle.

Was this sign designed for someone’s whose body did not conform, or for someone whose mind did not conform?   How would they know if it was someone’s mind when these disabilities are often not readily apparent.  In the end, it became apparent that the owners of the company expected us to confess the ways in which our bodies are different, and then wait for them to decide if we are acceptable enough to drive their go karts.

This is the kind of insensitivity that the differently abled face everyday, it is just seldom that a sign exists announcing that we are not welcome.  Usually the barriers to access are things like stairs and no ramp, no Braille on elevator buttons or bathrooms that are too small to enter, but because these accommodations are not something able bodied people regularly use, they do not notice their absence.

As I stood with the parents contemplating the sign last Saturday, everyone noticed the height and age limitations, but no one commented on the fact that the sign said no handicapped.  It did not occur to them how this may be discriminatory or even how this policy would be enforced because they were all able bodied. Ignoring obvious discrimination serves to allow us to continue the undeserved privilege that we have become accustomed to, and this is why many ignore what is right in front of them.  When you fail to speak out when doing so will cost you nothing, you have decided that discrimination and your privilege is more important than the human value of another.


Monday, May 10, 2010

The socialization of men and women

This is a guest post from Megan of the Progressive Scholar.

A few weeks ago in one of my classes, we were talking about gender and education.  We talked about how “all of us women remember how we played with barbies” or “every woman remembers wanting to gussy up to impress the boys”. To the contrary, not every woman has had those experiences.  In the same way, not every man “acts a fool” in order to impress a woman.  It oppresses those people outside the gender binary to assume those things.

We are socialized to understand what it means to have a female body or a male body. There is no scientific basis for gender, it is a social construct. Think for a moment about how you know you are the gender you believe yourself to be. If you present as a woman, how do you know you are a woman? If you present as a man, how do you know you are a man?

In a class where we are taught to hear every voice and explore every culture, we are blatantly ignoring the fact that there are members of our society who do not subscribe to the expected gender norms. There are people who were born into a male body and now present as female; there are people who were born with a female body who now present as male; and there are people who were born into a female or male body and who present themselves androgynously; there are people who were born with a mixture of chromosomes or reproductive organs who must decide which gender to present themselves as being.

For all of my life, I have never had a classroom experience that oppressed my racial identity; this is a product of my white privilege. However, every time we discuss gender in our classrooms we still cling tightly to the assumed understanding that there are only two genders, male and female. We never consider that there are people who have a disconnect between their sex and gender, and we never consider that someone could choose to live their life fitting the gender norms of neither male nor female.

In this class we spent a lot of time discussing “what is race?” and “what is ethnicity?”. But on the day we were slated to discuss gender, there is no discussion about what gender is. To me, this indicates that there should be no question about what gender is, and that we all ‘know’ is that there are men, and there are women. When discussing gender from a multicultural perspective we only discuss the oppression of women throughout history. We do not discuss the oppression of transgender individuals, transsexual individuals, androgynes, intersex individuals, or genderqueer individuals. In fact these individuals are not even mentioned and thus continue to remain invisible. And even in those rare instances where gender identity is discussed, it is only as a footnote to the already brief discussion on sexual orientation.


Apparently Race is not an Issue for the Young

I was sent the following video regarding the Sandra Bullock adoption.  I would like to focus on the issues brought up by Marie Walsh .  

transcript starting at 2:04

And thank goodness these liberal, wealthy progressive people are able to take any child in need an shower them with love.  And I think race should really only be examined if you’re over 40 you need to think about how you think about race, because the younger generation doesn’t see race the way perhaps my generation of older did.  We live in a global world where we have a bi-racial president.  Where some of the most famous and wealthy celebrities in the world are people of colour..Ummm you know I am happen to have bi-racial children they don’t self identify as Black or White.

Whether or not Ms. Walsh’s children identify as Black or White, is not the issue -- because bi-racial children identify in various ways.  My son, who is also mixed identifies as brown and that has not saved him from repeatedly having to deal with racism.  This kind of utopian view to how race effects children can only be believed by White liberals because they have no idea of what it is too really deal with racism first hand. 

The idea that Barack Obama can be held up as some sort of symbol of a new world is ridiculous, when we look at how many attacks Barack and his family have undergone, simply based of race.   Before any other candidate got secret service protection during the election Obama had to get protection because of the high amount of death threats

Also, has this woman never heard of hipster racism, wherein ironic racism has become a major part of their identity? Hipsters regularly engage in racism while claiming to be above it all and post racial.  Race is an issue at any age because all of the agents of socialization continue to present the divide.  When children go to school and learn that White people are the only ones who did anything historically important, how is that not actively teaching children racism?  When they turn on the television and see that White people are everywhere, whereas; POC are relegated to specific roles that are necessarily degrading, how is that not actively teaching them racism?  When parents actively have to struggle to find books that have good representations of POC, how is that not affirming racism?

The fact that POC routinely have to present these arguments to so-called White liberals, is indeed evidence that the world is not post racial.  Instead of listening to what we have to say they continue to live in their beautiful utopia, because they know they will never have to deal with the fall out of their privilege and their ignorance.  

transcript from 4:18

I understand what you are saying Ms Rawlings about zip code being important.  If you live in a homogenous place your, you’re going to have to make some life changes to make sure that your child is exposed to some kind of diversity.  I’ve moved around the world with my children actually and we live in two homogenous places.  One happened to be Boca Raton Florida where they went to a small little Lutheran school and I felt that my family was more of a welcome curiosity.  Everyone was very kind to us and I loved it.  The other place was Florence, Italy by the way, very homogenous where only the African street merchants had not problems but a lot of greet curiosity.  Where did you get that Black baby they would say to me, thinking that I had adopted them.  But I really think that if you live in a zip code that is very diverse I live in Venice Beach California which we call Berkeley on the beach, so my kids have bi-racial friends.   

image A welcome curiosity is not a good thing for Black children.  It places the child in the position of always having to explain their identity to others.  You will also note that she loved it, but the larger question is did her children love being centered out for being different?  Were the questions and situations they faced really benign? I was raised in a Black family, and grew up in neighbourhood that was largely Greek and Italian, and I can tell you first hand that being the only Black child in a classroom is not easy at all. 

I also think that it is quite telling that Walsh felt that moving to an area where her children only saw Blacks as street merchants was a good thing.  Of course, homogenous for her meant largely White, and therefore; never making herself a true minority.  How different of an experience would it have been for her children had they lived in the Caribbean where the doctors, lawyers, police officers, fire fighters, teachers etc., are all Black?  What would it have meant to them to turn on the television at night to see Black faces informing them about the news?  The choices we make have a huge impact on how our children understand the world. If Ms. Walsh believes that we are post- racial, and that it is okay for her children to be thought of as “a curiosity”, it reveals a lack of understanding of the ways in which race continues to stigmatize children of colour.

Each time I have written about the dynamics in inter-racial adoption, I have been inundated with hate letters calling me a racist or a separatist, but never do White people readily acknowledge the damage that they do to our children. Adopting Black children makes them liberal, and that is the narrative we are all supposed to accept and believe, even as these very same children are learning to internalize Whiteness as good.  

I believe in inter-racial families and in fact I am a part of one, but if the White parent involved is completely ignorant of race an refuses to acknowledge the ways in which it will be an issue for hir child, problems can and will arise from this.  One cannot assume that just because someone loves a person of a different race, that they are open to challenging privilege and deconstructing race, and Ms. Walsh stands of living proof of this.  Your children are not your liberal credential card Ms.Walsh.

Finally, shame on CNN and Don Lemmon  (this hurts me Don, but truth is the truth)  Having a White woman come on the air to lecture a Black woman about how the world is not really racist, only props up the idea that the experiences of WOC are irrelevant.  The fact that this a Black man was doing this, does not lessen the impact of the silencing that occurred.  You know damn well that race is an issue Don, because I have watched you check your colleagues on air. Simply because you worry about what alternative these kids will have if they are not adopted by these faux liberals, is no reason to sit there and let Walsh blather on about a non existent post-racist world. 

If we are going to continue to have these conversations about race and families, we need to be honest about the White supremacist state and how it really effects children.

H/T A Birth Project